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56th Massachusetts Infantry
in the Civil War

Regimental History
Fifty-sixth Infantry.— Cols., Charles E. Griswold, Stephen M. Weld, Jr.; Lieut. -Cols., Stephen M. Weld, Jr., Horatio D. Jarves; Majs., Horatio D. Jarves, Wallace A. Putnam, Z. Boylston Adams. This was known as the "1st veteran volunteer infantry." The members of this and the other three veteran regiments must already have served for at least nine months in some other organization. The 56th, the first of the four veteran regiments, was organized at Readville, and mustered into service during Dec, 1863, and Jan. and Feb., 1864, for three years. Its total enrolment was 74 officers and 1,119 men. It lost in action 6 officers, 99 enlisted men; 4 missing; 52 died by accident or disease; 48 died as prisoners. It left for Annapolis, Md., March 20, 1864, and was attached to Carruth's brigade, Stevenson's division, 9th corps. It left camp at Annapolis on April 23, when the corps embarked on its spring campaign, and on the 6th of May it went into action at the Wilderness, near the junction of the Brock and Plank roads. During the short time it was engaged, it lost heavily, Col. Griswold being killed, and the total casualties amounting to 77. Moving to the left with its corps in support of Gen. Hancock, it was again heavily engaged at Spottsylvania Court House, losing 52 in killed, wounded and missing. It again shared in the assaults on the 18th, when it lost 5 killed and 40 wounded. With a portion of the corps, it crossed the North Anna river on the 24th, and another severe engagement followed at Oxford. In this action the regiment lost 64 in killed, wounded and prisoners. It was again engaged with its corps at Bethesda Church and Cold Harbor, after which it crossed the James river and went into position before Petersburg, taking an active part in the assault on June 17, capturing over 50 prisoners, but losing heavily itself. It shared in the general siege work until the end of July and formed a part of the division chosen to lead the advance in the action at the Crater. Though already fearfully reduced in numbers, it lost in this fight 10 killed, 25 wounded and 22 prisoners. After serving in the trenches for two weeks longer, it took part in the expedition against the Weldon railroad, after which, on account of the depletion through losses of the 1st division, it was discontinued, and the 56th became a part of the 2nd brigade, 2nd division, 9th corps, taking part with it in the battle of Peebles' farm. The regiment spent the winter in garrison at Fort Alexander Hays and on the resumption of the spring campaign it joined in the assault on the Confederate works on the Jerusalem plank road. Afterward, assisted only by the 5th Mass. battery, it tenaciously held the key position of the captured works throughout the day. On the fall of Petersburg, it moved to Burkesville and after Lee's surrender, to Alexandria, where it was stationed until mustered out of service on July 12, when it returned to Massachusetts. The men were paid and discharged at Readville, July 22, 1865.

Regimental history taken from "The Union Army" by Federal Publishing Company, 1908 - Volume 1

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